Lakeshore News Tonight

Bank Bus Drives Financial Literacy

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October 30, 2013 — It’s not every day that residents on the west side of Gary see a bus parked outside Gary Housing Authority’s Concord Village.

In fact, resident Kimberly Jones thought the bus had mechanical issues. She joined the steady flow of people seeking financial advice aboard Fifth Third Bank’s electronic bus.

“Because of the recession and everything, I really needed to know, not how bad my credit is but how I could make it better,” said Jones.

Penny Thompson is the Community Economic Development Relationship Manager for the bank. She has traveled to many states on the electronic bus, which dates back nearly a decade.

“If you don’t have a credit score of a certain number today, you may not get a job,” Thompson said.

Instead of taking a seat to travel, visitors log on to one of 14 computers equipped to educate them about their financial affairs. The convenience puts those without basic resources on a level playing field.

“Access, physically to any bank can be a real challenge for people if they don’t have a car,” Thompson said.  “Public transportation doesn’t always reach them.  They may not be able to afford to take a cab and go.  So, they’re kind of left out of the mainstream of bank services, of opportunities that they may not be aware of financially, home ownership counseling.  Any number of things.”

For Jones, it’s getting help with making ends meet.  She said her life has been a struggle.  That struggle led her to the bus where she and others actively searching for employment received a free code to conduct a job search, “I can stand to have another job, maybe a part-time job.”

One of the signature programs on the bus is a program called Next Job.  A quick search of the companies hiring within a 15-mile radius of the Gary area returned more than 6800 jobs.

“We have seen success across the board, but most recently we were in Freeport, IL, and one of our visitors to the bus used Next Job, and while on the bus got a call back on an application. Two days later she had an interview, and she is starting her new job today,” said Thompson.  In addition, Thompson said they offer resume, cover letter and interviewing tips.

This help is just a small piece of the economic stability pie that City of Gary leaders want for residents. Johnnie Ragland, who works as a Housing Specialist with the City of Gary Community Development Division, said the e-bus complements other programs aimed at eliminating issues throughout the city such as foreclosure.  She said the goal of the department’s programs is, “To help the citizens with the down payment, with the foreclosure and to become better consumers of their dollars.”

The Fifth Third e-bus will be at the Genesis Convention Center in downtown Gary Thursday from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

By Renetta DuBose

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